The United States believes Russian hackers planted a false news story in the official Qatar News Agency that has led to a diplomatic crisis in the region, CNN reports.
The incident happened on May 23, when Qatar News Agency reported the small Mideast nation's ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had questioned whether President Donald Trump would be able to stay in office and made the country sound as if it had friendly relations both with Iran and Israel.
The report was immediately denounced as a hack, but is believed to have led to a rift in the region in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bharain, Egypt and others cut off diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar.
The official reason given by the Saudis and others are a belief that Qatar funds mosques that promote terrorism. Qatar denies the accusations. Saudia Arabia, where most of the 9/11 hijackers held citizenship, has faced the same accusations, and also denies them.
According to CNN, FBI investigators have gone to Qatar to assist in the investigation. The agency believes Russians were behind the hack, but cannot yet determine whether the Russian mafia was involved or official Russian intelligence.
"Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN. "Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI."
Trump also weighed in on the Saudi-led actions against Qatar, though he did not mention the false news story in a Tuesday tweet:
Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN's "The Situation Room" that the actions are "very dangerous" and that the United States should look into whether such hacking constitutes an act of war and craft a response.
"This is very serious," Yoho said.
The congressman said he doesn't know Trump's motivation in tweeting about the issue, but said official responses based on false information creates "a dangerous situation for everybody around the world.
"If it can happen to Qatar, the same thing could be going on with Germany or one of our other allies, the U.K.," he said. "This something the president with his team … before we respond that we know the facts."
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